My 2nd grade students are really starting to take off with their writing! The biggest part of craft is using wisdom in word choice-- but often students (and us) choose words that we're comfortable or we just don't know what our options are or take the time to think about them. So to be more intentional about words we had a Dead Words Day, to put the common words to rest and rise up with more interesting words. Anything to get the students engaged! Let me start off my saying… this by no means is my idea. I remember doing something like this in grade school and have seen idea on numerous blogs.
Prior to students coming to class I have them wear all black. Since I did this on Halloween they assume something is up and get all the more excited. I made necklaces with words that had the dead words on them. I had signs around the room that said "The Dead Word Zone" and caution tape on the door. I copied tombstones onto gray construction for students to add the resurrected words on.
I start the day telling them how proud I am of them as writers and explain that as we continue to mature we have to lay to rest what we did when we were just starting writing so that stronger and more powerful writing can emerge. I emphasize that as writers they have the power and to engage readers they need to keep them captivated using strong words. I explain that today we are going to have a memorial for the beloved words we have used so much so that we can resurrect new words into our vocabulary. I then pass out the necklaces and tell each child they are responsible for the memory and new life of that word. Throughout the day they think of words that could replace it. Depending on time and maturity they could do a word hunt in their books, use a thesaurus, etc.
During literacy I pass out the tombstones and using the words they've collected and/or the resurrected words I've included to create a tombstone for that word.
I gather students into a circle on the carpet to grieve the word we lost and celebrate what will rise up. Students read the epitaph- after they say the word that we are laying to rest- the rest of the class repeats that word. (reader) “Here lies ‘said’” (whole class) “said” (reader continues on) they drop the word into the bucket and place a flower into in. Depending on weather you could also do this outside and bury the words!
Throughout the activities you could play “The Twilight Zone” or “The Undertaker” theme song... Along with the classics like “Thriller” After we complete the funeral service, students receive a small tombstone to write their word on it and a new sentence using the resurrected words. We hung those on a bulletin board and below I use the tombstones to create a new word wall so that we can add new words all year to it. I leave a marker so that students can add new words all year-- and boy will they call you out if you use them! I went to the local craft store to make the tombstones look like a cemetery.
Here are all of the materials I use in my class